Drinking Alcohol Improves Brain Functioning

People who consume as little as a single drink of alcoholic beverage per week have significantly greater cognitive functioning -- -sharper thought processes --- than teetotalers. That’s the finding of a study of over 6,000 British civil servants.

The beneficial mental effects of alcohol were found when a person drinks up to about 30 drinks per week, and increased with consumption. The researchers did not test the effects of higher levels of alcohol drinking.

These latest findings on the benefits of alcohol come from a study of the long-term health of civil servants, known as the Whitehall Study, established in 1967. Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health, led the analysis, which involved giving psychometric tests to all subjects. The questions ranged from verbal and mathematical reasoning to tests of short-term memory. Mental functioning was then compared to drinking patterns. Abstainers were twice as likely as occasional drinkers to receive the lowest test scores.

The research team suggests that alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) improves mental functioning because it increases blood flow to the brain. The results are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Dr. Guy Ratcliffe, the Medical Director of the Medical Council on Alcohol, said that “this is a well-researched study, and it’s important that information such as this is available so that people can make informed decisions about alcohol consumption.”


  • Matthews, Robert. Alcohol sharpens your brain, say researchers. The Telegraph (UK), August 1, 2004.

Filed Under: Brain